Editor’s Note: Dr. Emily Godbey is a professor of art and visual culture at Iowa State University. In this interview, she discusses how plague monuments were used to commemorate victims of past disease outbreaks, temporary memorials for COVID-19 and why plague memorials are not as prolific as war memorials.
What are some of the past disease outbreaks that have been memorialized around the world?
Diseases like the bubonic plague, cholera, the 1918 influenza pandemic or “Spanish Flu,” AIDS, and even SARS have monuments, although some are much more modest than others. They are more uncommon when compared with monuments to wars, political regimes, and more visible tragedies such as 9/11 or the Holocaust. However, they are present.